On a recent flight I read The Fog Machine of War by Matt Disero. This a great book full of short essays / stories by Matt about his career and experience as a full time comedy magician.
There’s a ton of great stories in the book, but the value of the book is the advice. It goes from everything from working with agents, to using production elements, to trying out new material onstage.
There’s tons to learn from Matt’s failures, which he openly shares. Failures are things that magicians don’t talk about enough, especially in print. With magicians and their egos, most put out the facade that they always crush every show and have never bombed. Matt opens up about bad shows and that’s were the learning happens.
Right now I’m reading Doc Dixon’s book The Show is the Mother of Invention. It’s about having a show that you can take as carry on luggage onto a plane and making that stuff play big. I’m about 2/3’s of the way through it right now and I really like it!
For me this is a very interesting read as I do travel a lot, both by car and by plane. Even when travelling by car, it’s important to try to pack small, or at least efficiently!
I used to be a “Pack as small as your artistic vision will allow you to…” sort of person. That led me to travelling around the country with a four foot metal spoon that required it’s own case! And that prop was used only for a 15 second gag! I’m no longer that person, I still have that spoon and case, and can do the routine whenever I want, but the it’s not currently in my show.
Doc’s book has a lot of strategies for getting more time out of what you already have, and how to make small things play larger. There are many techniques that I already do, that I didn’t know were techniques, like telling stories about what’s happened when you did the trick at another show.
One thing that’s important to me is texture. I don’t want the show to feel like it was designed to fit into a case…even though it was. For example one of the things that’s in my show is my Applause Please trick, which is an applause sign that’s part of a larger routine. This is technically an “illusionette” in that it’s bigger than a hand held item, yet smaller than a zig zag. This prop has a lot of negative space that I can use to fill with other things when it’s packed up.
In addition to confirming what I was already doing, I’ve learned several new things that make Doc Dixon’s book totally worth buying for me! If packing smaller and getting more mileage out of what you already are doing is something that interests you, I highly recommend getting this book!
About a month ago I picked up two Richard Osterlind books. I got The Principles of Magic and The Principles of Mentalism. These books look like they’ve been out for a while, I think the magic one had a copyright date of 2005 and the mentalism one a few years newer.
These books are filled with short thoughts on different aspects of performing. Usually these little essays about about a page and a half to two pages. Richard gets the information across, but it’s a pretty much just the facts. He doesn’t go too deep into much of it, but it’s a starting point to get you thinking about different aspects of how you perform.
I’d say these books are targeted towards someone who is going from performing for family and friends to maybe trying to do a show, or just starting doing formal shows. If that’s you, pick up a copy of the one that’s appropriate to what you do.
The issue I was having was mentally I was getting upset at people that would stick around for one trick and then leave. It’s a small percentage of the audience, and it really bugged me. In the book Jimmy writes about audiences “doing you a favor” by watching versus you doing the audience a favor by performing for them. This is a huge mental shift and really helped me out. I’m no stranger to performing for a transient audience, but sometimes you forget things and a refresher course is needed.
If you are thinking about street performing or want to make your street show better, I totally recommend this book. I don’t busk, I perform street style shows at fairs. The huge difference is at the end, I don’t ask for a tips. If you’re in the fair market, this book is also very worthwhile!
It’s always a fun day when I get new books in the mail! I got The Bammo Flim Flam Conglomeration and The Comedy Helpline.
I’ve been a fan of Bob Farmer’s ever since his Flim Flam articles in Magic Magazine. The other book was is comedy magic tips from many different magicians. I’ve started the Bammo Flim Flam book and I’ve already got a bar bet I’m going to try out!
A couple of weeks Matt Disero mentioned the book Naypes by Roberto Mansilla on his Facebook page. His post got me curious about the book, so I picked up a copy of it. It’s a book of card magic for parlor or stage shows. I cracked it open on the plane yesterday.
In the beginning Roberto does a good job of defining what parlor and stage magic is and the difference between the two. He also talks about four techniques to make cards play to a larger audience.
I’ve read a few tricks into it and I like the approach to Out of This World, and the routine for Card in Envelope. I’ll probably finish reading it on the flight home in a few days. I’ll keep you posted with what I think…
It’s an interesting idea, it’s basically a book that’s just one trick, with a lot of methods for it. It sounds like it’s a bit of a journey through how the trick was created. I haven’t really had a chance to dig into it yet, but I’m excited to read it!